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Menuhin's association with these works, and Bartok himself, make this an appealing combination of recordings. Most of these recordings come from the great violinist's later period when his technique was sometimes less reliable, but by and large he is in good, sometimes brilliant form in these recordings.
The Bartok Violin Concerto No 2 has been well served on disk. Menuhin was an early champion of it, making the first commercial recording also with Antal Dorati (see
Bartok: Violin Concerto, No. 2
). Many rate this early one as the finest ever, though personally, I prefer Menuhin's later one with Furtwangler (see
Violin Concerto No. 2, Solo Violin Concerto (Menuhin)
) finding it more compelling and having more "mystery." By comparison with both earlier versions, the stereo performance of the work in this compilation is perhaps not quite on the same level, and quite as spontaneous. But the violinist's love of the work still shines through, and it's still very good, even when compared with stiff competition of recent years from the likes of Kyung-Wha Chung (
Bartók: Violin Concerto No.2, Rhapsodies Nos.1 & 2
) and Anne-Sophie Mutter (
Dutilleux / Bartók / Stravinsky: Violin Concertos
The Solo Violin Sonata was the last work the composer completed. Menuhin, who commissioned the work, also made the first recording in the 1940s, soon after the premier. This is available with the above mentioned Furtwangler version of the Concerto. The earlier recording is more spacious than the one here, which comes from the 1970's when Menuhin was in the twilight of his violin career. The later one though benefits from more advanced recording techniques. His prowess on the violin was then considered to be on the wane- though that does not show here. I bought it then on LP. It was my introduction to the work, when there were few other recordings in competition. Reviews then said it was a return in top form. So it was. Monumental and compelling, in resonant acoustic, this was possibly Menuhin's last great recording on the violin. It withstands comparison even with recent outstanding performances from the likes of Kremer (see
). Good to have it back.
The Concerto No. 1 was an early work written a style that recalls Richard Strauss, who was an early influence on Bartok. It only became known posthumously, though some of the music had been published in another form. Menuhin was in the running to give the first performance this when the work came to light. The performance shows Menuhin's lyrical and emotional sensitivity to good effect.
The Viola Concerto comes from the opposite end of the composer's carreer. It was the work Bartok was working on at his death and ended up being completed by Tibor Serly, and commissioned by the great viola player, William Primrose who later recorded it with with Serly. Sadly, the Primrose/Serly recording is not easily available. Menuhin's performance here is one of his most successful viola recordings, and still to my mind one of the best ever of this work.
Boulez and Menuhin is not a partnership that immediately comes to mind. But the sometimes over-analytic Frenchman with inspirational, if sometimes erratic, violinist work well together in the lighter Rhapsodies. The music has rustic feel of Hungarian countryside. This is real Hungarian folk music as seen through the lens of Bartok. So too are the six duos which are a selection from forty-four that Bartok published where both Menuhin and his partner are in good form.
All-in-all, a good-value combination of some of Menuhin's best stereo recordings. Essential listening for Bartok fans. These are rich pickings.
Violinenmusik vom Klavier-Mann Bartok mag nicht jeder. Für Spezies trotzdem ein Genuss, aber Menhuin hat stärkere Einspielungen vorgelegt. Oder liegt es an der Aufnahmequalität? Die Midori-Einspielung ist besser!
Der Ungar Béla Bartók (1881-1945) gilt als einer der bedeutendsten Komponisten der Moderne. Vor allem sein Beitrag zur zeitgenössischen Instrumentalmusik, namentlich seine Instrumentalkonzerte, ist unermesslich und unglaublich facettenreich. Am bekanntesten sind seine drei Klavierkonzerte, doch diese Doppel-CD, die preisgünstig in der Serie "GEMINI" erschienen ist, beweist, dass auch andere Konzerte des Meisters hörenswert sind.
Das erste Violinkonzert, das Anfang des vergangenen Jahrhunderts entstand, ist zweisätzig. Es eröffnet mit einem geheimnisvollen Andante, das in elysischen Höhen schwebt. Der zweite Satz ist ein wuchtiges, derb-fröhliches Allegro, das mit einigen spielerischen Extravaganzen aufwartet. Das zweite Konzert erweist sich als wesentlich reifer, was freilich nicht wunder nimmt, indes es etwa 30 Jahre später entstand. Der Kopfsatz ist von tiefschürfender Komplexität, Bartók zelebriert hier einen wahren Reigen von Emotionen und Impressionen. Das wundervolle Andante knüpft passend an und windet sich in ein feuriges Allegro.
Zwei weitere Werke für Violine und Orchester sind hier dargeboten, nämlich die beiden Rhapsodien, die Ende der 20er Jahre komponiert wurden. Sie sind in der Tradition typisch ungarischer Volkslieder gehalten, beginnen mit einem langsamen, schwerfälligen Teil und steigern sich zu einem burlesken Kehraus. Der zweiten Rhapsodie merkt man deutlich an, dass der ungarische Komponist sie nachmalig überarbeitete.
Eine wahre Kostbarkeit ist das Konzert für Viola und Orchester, das Bartók genau wie sein drittes Klavierkonzert nicht vollenden konnte, das aber trotzdem in einer vervollständigten Version vorliegt. Der einleitende Satz ist von einer derartigen Finesse, dass er sicherlich nicht auf Anhieb zu durchdringen ist. Wesentlich harmloser gebaren sich hingegen Adagio und Finale.
Es gibt zwei Zugaben: zunächst sechs Sätze aus den insgesamt 44 Duos für zwei Violinen. Es handelt sich dabei um eine geschmackvolle Bearbeitung original ungarischer Volksliedmotive - Bartók war leidenschaftlicher Sammler derartiger Lieder. Fürderhin verdient die Sonate für Solovioline große Beachtung, es ist eigentlich profan, sie nur als Zugabe abzutun. Die einleitende Ciaccona ist deutlich an Bachs monumentale angelehnt. Nach einer bezaubernden Fuge und einer berückender Melodia folgt das regelrecht diabolisch-gehetzte Finale, das durchaus anstrengend ist.
Die vorliegende Einspielung entstand zwischen 1965 und 1975, erfreut sich aber dennoch erstaunlich guter Tonqualität. Die Interpreten sind im Einzelnen Yehudi Menuhin (Violine), Nell Gotkovsky (Violine in den Duos), das New Philharmonia Orchestra unter Antal Dorati sowie das BBC Symphony Orchestra unter Pierre Boulez (Rhapsodien). Es handelt sich um einen durchweg filigran pointierten und differenzierten Vortrag, sowohl was die Orchesterwerke als auch was die Kammermusiken anbelangt. Menuhin zeigt sich in Topform, spielt seine Parte fein akzentuiert, farbig nuanciert und schattig perlend. Dabei fehlt es ihm niemals an Transparenz bei seiner Darbietung. Auch die Orchesterleistung kann nur gelobt werden, insbesondere Boulez' seziermesserartige Präzision. Jedweder bricht eine Lanze für Bartók, und das zurecht...
There's no denying the historical importance of the relationship between Bartok and Menuhin, so it is a little surprising that EMI doesn't attempt to market this set with equal prominence to the artist and composer - maybe it tells us something about the audience for this series of reissues. Bartok wrote his substantial and technically extremely demanding sonata for solo violin for Menuhin, and Menuhin was a well-known promoter of Bartok's works. The recording in this set, however, dates from the 1970s, and maybe I am prejudiced, but Menuhin's playing isn't ideally crisp and fresh, even if the interpretation is still a very strong one and rather beautiful; it is played with a tonal warmth and almost mellow phrasing that sounds attractive enough if a little short on ferocity and attack.
The other recordings date from the 1960s. The recording quality is generally good, however (as it is in the solo violin sonata), but the playing isn't always as technically good as one could imagine - note-perfect, more or less, and I don't have any qualms about the intonation (a problem for the later Menuhin), but there is a certain lack of crispness and freshness and swagger. I would easily have lived with rougher edges if the reward had been more spirit. Still, his ideas are generally good ones and Menuhin's ability to convey the overall structure of the work is impressive. In the concertos he is joined by Antal Dorati and the New Philharmonia, and if nothing else the support is near idesl, powerful and passionate (as is Menuhin's playing in the first concerto) but never overdoing it. In the Rhapsodies, exhibiting many of the same qualities, he is joined by the BBCSO under Pierre Boulez, who leads some sharply etched, rhythmically incisive but never clinical performances, and even though the orchestral support is more lustrous than the soloists, Menuhin acquits himself well, with warmth and much beautiful playing.
For the selection of duos Menuhin is joined by Nell Gotkovsky for fine results, and in the unfinished viola sonata we get a chance of hearing Menuhin on an instrument he allegedly had wanted to take up on more occasions; the result is pretty convincing, and he produces a burnished, golden tone in a work which might not rate among Bartok's most successful works (even if he had finished it - as it is, the work is almost more the work of Tibor Serly than Bartok). So the performances are not perfect (or at least not, I maintain, "perfect in the right way") but they are still very rewarding, and if Menuhin at the time of the recordings had lost some of his spontaneity and effortlessness (although he seems to have preferred beauty over fervor throughout his career), these are still relative spirited and passionate renderings of some glorious music. Besides, this is a most useful collection of Bartok's most important violin music (apart from the two sonatas) and a worthy addition to any collection - even though you can find even better recordings of all the works featured here elsewhere.
I like Bartók. I really do. Somewhere between the world of the Romantics and the Expressionists sits this Hungarian/Classical genius composing music that is based on folk tunes yet reaches the most modern altitudes. Robert Fripp, a modern songwriter, has declared the Bartókian influence on his style. This is music that challenges the listener to listen to what is produced from the instruments, what is becoming for the moment. From relaxation to drama the patterns shift about, and constantly remind you to interpret each new change. Bartók--between two worlds.
First you have to like Bartok. Not everyone enjoys the 20th century extention of classical music. If you do like Bartok and want to hear his violin compositions - then buy this CD and hear a true master at work.